Well, all of us here in Devils Legion knew it'd be hard to match the intensity of Tuesday night's game against the Rangers, and while the Devils thoroughly outplayed the Coyotes during segments of this game, they didn't seem to have the urgency in them that the homestanding Phoenix Coyotes did, as the Yotes beat New Jersey by a score of 4-3 in Glendale tonight. With Buffalo winning, the Devils now have only a two point lead in the Eastern Conference, and with the Penguins winning their game 3-2, the Devils lead in the Atlantic Division is down to four points.
Before we move on, it should be noted that you can check out NHL.com for a complete recap, along with a box score and the ultimate source for statistics you can find on the web. Throughout the night, the folks running Five For Howling certainly seemed pleased with the Coyotes performance, so do check out that site for the entire scoop from Phoenix.
First, if you haven't seen the game or it went too late for you last night, here are the highlights, courtesy of NHL.com:
As was mentioned, the Devils were likely not as urgent as the Coyotes, but they were outshooting them and outchancing them. New Jersey outshot Phoenix 34-19, including an astounding 11-1 in the 2nd period, but the Yotes made their chances count, and managed to put four behind Marty Brodeur, who probably shouldn't have played - in my opinion - just as it'd be too difficult to come down from the performance at The Garden with the same intensity in front of the 9,400 who showed up at the Jobing.com Arena. But Marty did play, and was fairly average - except for a couple of great saves - not stopping the few major chances the Yotes had.
You can't blame Broduer for the Coyotes first goal, though. Keith Yandle took a drop pass into the zone and just fired a shot on goal. The puck took a wild redirect off of Matthew Lombardi, apparently, and past Brodeur to make it 1-0 Phoenix. They'd strike again later in the frame when Peter Mueller broke in alone behind the defense. Marty went down, and Mueller went high for what looked to be one of the easier goals you'll ever see. Phoenix had a 2-0 lead after 20.
The Devils did play well in the second, however, and a lot of the credit goes to Brian Rolston, who had one of his best games in recent memory. On a turnover by the Coyotes and a bouncing puck, Rod Pelley found a streaking Rolston into the Phoenix zone, and got the puck to him on a great feed. Rolston made no mistake, beating the mostly superb Ilya Bryzgalov to make it 2-1 Coyotes at 9:31.
Less than five minutes later, New Jersey would strike once more. After some typical dogged work by the Parise/Zajac combo, Zajac was able to force a loose puck in the deep slot. Credit the development of Zajac, as in prior years he might have looked to pass the puck, but Zajac ripped it right there and past the Phoenix keeper Bryzgalov to give Zajac his 13th and tie the game at two, where it'd stay for a little while, and at the end of the second period.
Midway through the third, unfortunately, the Devils had a brief but fatal breakdown. A quick centering pass found a briefly open Daniel Winnik in front with Mark Fraser, and the two's battling sticks managed to get the puck past Marty to make it 3-2. That would've been bad enough, but Fraser managed to high stick Winnik just as he fired the puck, and he was penalized (Fraser's second penalty of the period). On the power play, Zbynek Michalek ripped a slap shot by a screened Brodeur to put the Devils down by two with 6:52 left in the game.
The Devils, admirably, did not give up from that point. A Brian Rolston slapper found the back of the net for his second of the game with 4:44 to go to make it 4-3. Rolston, all of a sudden, has 15 on the campaign. The Devils couldn't seem to get it together to tie it up, despite Brodeur making a game saving stop on Petr Prucha to keep it close late. The Devs fell to Phoenix, and will need to pick their game back up against Colorado (Saturday at 3PM ET) to even up their record on this now four-game road trip.